By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Many people have said that they wanted Webb City, but few have actually been fully prepared for the challenge.
On Saturday, Ladue joined just a handful of programs in state history that can say they’ve beaten the Cardinals – in Webb City – in a do-or-die game.
The Rams limited Webb City to just 257 yards of total offense – holding the Cardinals scoreless in the second half – en route to a 17-13 Class 4 semifinal upset at Cardinal Stadium.
“We have the utmost respect for Webb City and Coach Roderique; they do a fabulous job year in and year out,” said Ladue coach Mike Tarpey. “We challenged our kids a few years ago and wanted to put our program in that arena. We’re not there by any means, but we frequently talk about you’re either that far away or that close and we want to feel like we’re that close.
“Last year was really a 7-0 game and that’s how we sold it to our kids. We let them score at the end to try a miracle finish. We lost a lot of kids that we felt like were really talented. This group has done an amazing job of stepping up. We have a lot of guys that play two ways and against a school like this it’s tough. Couldn’t be more proud of our kids.”
In a game that featured two of the top defenses in Missouri, it was special teams that played a major role in deciding the outcome.
Ladue trailed 13-10 entering the fourth quarter, and while the Rams couldn’t get anything going, Senior Dale Chesson was able to continuously pin the Cardinals inside their own 20.
That punting shifted the field position with neither offense sustaining a drive.
Chesson, who also had four receptions for 76 yards, and Ladue’s defense allowed Tarpey to be extremely conservative with play calling.
The Rams, on several plays that would be considered four-down territory, opted to punt and play field position.
The gamble paid off midway through the fourth quarter when Ladue took over at the Webb City 33-yard line to begin a drive. The Rams scored the go-ahead touchdown on their next possession, a 19-yard touchdown pass from Henry McIntosh to Mason Player.
“Webb is a four-down team and if you give them the ball at midfield they’re going to make you pay,” said Tarpey. “I thought Dale punted the ball extremely well and with the way our defense was playing, if they had to drive the ball 80 yards we felt much better about things. We have a lot of confidence in our defense and our defensive coordinator David Bryant has done a great job.”
Webb City’s 212 rushing yards was the program’s lowest output of the playoffs and its least productive rushing day since Sep. 28.
With a defensive front that boasts Illinois commit Moses Okpala, as well as Division One prospects Jelani Davis and Brian Faulkner, Ladue presented a unit that was as good as Roderique and Webb City has ever seen.
“They have good guys and it seemed like they got better as the day went on,” said Roderique. “We couldn’t get enough push offensively and we made some mistakes, but that’s going to happen when your opponent is as talented as they were on the other side today.
“They played different in the second half. We couldn’t get much going offensively. They turned it up on us and we couldn’t respond offensively, then we compounded it by giving them a chance. It was a day where we made a lot more mistakes than I ever could’ve imagined we would as an offensive team. We didn’t score in the second half and that’s on me. I’m the one in charge of our offense.”
Cade Beason led Webb City with 76 rushing yards on 12 carries, which included a 79-yard scamper on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Kane Parks added 55 yards, 53 of which came on a second-quarter touchdown run.
Standout backs Durand Henderson and Devrin Weathers – who have rushed for a combined 2,300 yards and 36 touchdowns – were both limited due to lingering injuries. On Saturday, the dynamic duo totaled just 53 yards on 20 rushes.
McIntosh led Ladue with 207 passing yards, completing 16 of his 31 attempts, with a pair of touchdowns. Senior back Andrew Hunt rushed for 104 yards on a workman-like 24 carries.
Ladue now joins Kearney, Harrisonville, Camdenton and Carthage as the only teams to win playoff games in Webb City since 2000. The loss also snapped Webb City’s 28-game winning streak, the longest active streak in Missouri.
The Rams will advance to play fellow St. Louis-area program MICDS for the Class 4 state championship next weekend in Columbia.
And, while losing is never easy, Saturday also served as a reminder to Roderique at just how futile it is in the game of life.
His daughter, Hailey, and her husband – Webb City assistant coach Trey Derryberry – welcomed their first child into the world early Saturday morning, meaning Missouri’s most prominent football coach has reached another milestone.
“It puts things in perspective,” said Roderique. “Sometimes we get caught up in wins and losses and it’s one of those things that’s a very small part of our lives, but when you’re 17-18 years old it’s a lot bigger than what we think sometimes. Fifty percent of games are lost and we forget that around here sometimes. We’re really proud of our kids. They battled all the way to the wire.
“So proud of our seniors and what they’ve done. It’s always a tough day when the last game is played, no matter if you win or lose, but when you end on a loss it’s a lot harder.”